As Oregon’s population ages, our state faces numerous challenges and opportunities related to meeting the needs of its older adults. We’re aging faster than the nation, according to Census data from 2014. In fact, between 2010 and 2014, nearly all of Oregon’s counties saw their 65 and older population grow by more than ten percent. With this shift comes a growing need for programs that support and educate professional and at-home caregivers, first responders, and others who interface with this population. Meeting this challenge requires an innovative approach. That’s where Oregon Care Partners comes in.
Responding to the need for knowledgeable, skilled caregivers in every corner of the state, a group of forward-thinking organizations and nonprofits came together in 2014 to launch Oregon Care Partners. With funding from the state, Oregon Care Partners provides free, high-quality trainings for Oregon’s caregivers who dedicate their time to caring for Oregon’s most vulnerable population. Since launching, the program has trained thousands of Oregonians to provide safe, effective, and positive care to residents and loved ones. With more than 27,000 free in-person and online trainings delivered to more than 10,000 individuals to date, Oregon Care Partners is also changing the way caregiver education is viewed at the policy level – creating interest outside of Oregon in this unique, collaborative solution to the caregiver shortage.
“All of the stakeholders recognized that our state’s long-term care community faces a very real and growing need for accessible, affordable caregiver training,” said Linda Kirschbaum, senior vice president of quality services at Oregon Health Care Association (OHCA). “Oregon Care Partners is making a significant, positive impact on Oregon’s community of caregivers and the people in their care. At OHCA, we’re excited to play a role in yet another chapter in our state’s long history of innovative, collaborative work towards improving long-term care services and quality of life for our aging Oregonians.”
Key to Oregon Care Partners’ success is its ability to provide access to trainings for caregivers in the communities where they live and work, particularly in underserved areas where resources are scarce. This is accomplished by identifying and training a team of qualified individuals around the state to conduct trainings, providing free classes in convenient locations such as local community centers and health care organizations, and offering classes both online and in-person. Online classes provide extra flexibility for caregivers so they can take classes at their own pace and on their own time. In-person classes are offered statewide and at various lengths and times, reflecting Oregon Care Partners’ commitment to making classes accessible for busy caregivers.
Another important element is the level of collaboration with many statewide long-term care and non-profit organizations who share a vision and concern for the health and quality of care for aging Oregonians.
“In collaborating with Oregon Care Partners we have been able to increase our capacity to educate and support caregivers throughout the state of Oregon,” said Sarah Holland, director of programs for the Alzheimer’s Association, Oregon Chapter. “It has enabled us to establish an on-going presence in areas where resources have historically been limited. Through this partnership, our pooled resources and expertise allow us to reach more caregivers than a single organization could reach alone.”
The trainings focus on a holistic and impactful approach to timely and topical care subjects – including dementia care and medication safety. The genesis of Oregon Care Partners medication safety curriculum came from a recommendation from the Oregon Partnership to Improve Dementia Care work group as a strategy to help decrease unnecessary medications, including antipsychotics. To address the need for improved medication management practices, Oregon Care Partners developed a training utilizing Oregon State University’s School of Pharmacy curriculum and the Agency for Health Research & Quality (AHRQ) evidence-based TeamSTEPPS® methodology. The result is a direct and positive impact on quality of life and care, as well as cost savings through the reduction of unnecessary medications including psychoactives, and adverse drug events (i.e. falls and hospitalizations).
“Great training!” said one professional caregiver. “I came to check out the quality for my med techs and care staff, and I leave recommending OCP trainings to ALL in my corporation! Very good quality info!”
For family members, community caregivers, and first responders Oregon Care Partners provides access to education they wouldn’t have otherwise. Often the long term care community or center is a valued community resource. Oregon Care Partners is able to expand access to trainings by partnering with communities to host trainings and share Oregon Care Partners information with their networks.
“I help with my mother’s dementia care, and I’m always looking for education and help in understanding this illness and the journey,” said an Oregon family caregiver after attending Oregon Care Partners’ 2015 Caregiver Conference. “This training was helpful on so many levels. Thank you.”
What began as an opportunity to enhance senior care and education in Oregon is now an organization that continues to expand its reach thanks to the unprecedented dedication of individuals and organizations that advocate for aging Oregonians.